OTT & REN
Post-apocalyptic Adventures of Ott & Ren: Bay of Wolves
Copyright 2015 by Jeremiah Donaldson
Cover art by Brianna Donaldson
All rights reserved. Any resemblance to persons you know is the result of fevered delusions coming to life.
Table of Contents
Gil's hand slipped off the wrench and sent his knuckles into the side of the engine block. Skin peeled back where they made contact. He put the wound to his mouth and sucked at the blood. Fluid was too precious to waste. Besides, it reminded him of his younger, reckless years when he ate whatever he could find. He licked the blood that ran down between his middle and ring fingers, trying to miss the greasy crude smeared on them from the motor. He went back to work, humming a tune of his own design. The owners had paid well for him to get the armored SUV fixed as quick as he could so they could 'Get out of this backwater shit hole'.
Maybe the thickly muscled woman had been right.
Gil stood and scanned his surroundings. The town of Bay of Wolves sat on what had once been a subdivision that overlooked Vancouver where the poisoned Pacific ocean now lapped. Metal skeletons and ruined buildings stuck from the water towards Vancouver island. Several of them reached a couple hundred meters above the surface of the water. An obstacle course of roofs showed just above and under the water closer to shore. Flotsam and floating roofs, branches, and boards moved with the gentle swell that ebbed and flowed. Twisted trees and patches of sawgrass grew between the bare foundations and the 20 dilapidated houses that constituted the town. The setting sun made the polluted sky blaze orange and the water neon green.
But what if not?
Why did she have to go and get him talking to himself?
Fucking with an old man like that. And the albino. He shuddered.
The clatter of an engine without a muffler broke him from the conversation in his head.
He turned to see a familiar sight. A smoking car puttered down the hillside road towards the town gate. A cloud of black smoke trailed from it while the noise echoed between the hills. The road had once been a major freeway used by the Old Nations. Now, it was two broken lanes with rubble along the sides that disintegrated more with each passing winter. Gil normally received a dozen customers a year. It had been a couple years since two had been in town at once. Maybe things had picked up.
The armored car approached slowly, giving him time to ease the remaining bolts out of the SUV's radiator and lift it clear of the frame. Remnants of water splashed from the crumbled bottom where it'd been damaged by some off-road traveling. They were lucky he didn't have to weld the whole truck back together. He wiped his hands on a rag just as the armored coup rolled to a stop next to his flatbed with grass grown up around the wheels and filled with spare parts. The cloud of exhaust the car dragged along took a few seconds to dissipate.
The once maroon coupe had a steel shield to protect the radiator. I-beams had been used for bumpers. All the windows had steel where glass should have been and had rectangles cut in the front to see from. A machine gun and spotlight were mounted on top so they could be operated through the metal sunroof that was closed. Holes had been punched through the body and sections of chain used to hold the doors shut. Random bullet holes showed in the rusty body. The motor smelled hot and ticked loud. Had they ran it out of water or oil?
Chains rattled for a few seconds before the doors opened with twin shrieks of metal on metal, closing with the same. Gil twirled his fingers in his ears to make them stop ringing from the din. The occupants had reached him by the time he finished.
A massive man with a mane of red hair pulled into a bun on top of his head and several days of shadow on his chin held out his hand. He wore combat fatigues, boots, and a flannel shirt with half the buttons gone. A hunting knife hung on the right side of his belt and a steel flail on the left.
Gil had to lean back to look up at the cheesy smile and twinkling eyes the same color as the man's hair. He held out his hand to shake, and his palm was engulfed like a huge muscular pillow had been wrapped around it. Several joints popped during the brief handshake.
“I'm Ott. I see you have a nice garage here.” He nodded towards the tools and engine parts visible inside the dim interior.
Gil smiled back. “Thanks, I'm Gil. You see right. The best, er, only one in these parts.” He looked at the other man who was the complete opposite of the giant redhead. He stood half Gil's height, only reaching Ott's thigh, and had huge, black mutton chops that ended in ponytails. His hair was cut close to the scalp, revealing a tribal face tattoo on his left side that extended to the crown of his head. Eyes so blue that they looked black darted about while he stood with his arms crossed. He wore a bullet proof vest, cargo pants, and boots. A pistol hung on his right hip. Gil held out his hand. “And you are?”
The man looked at the hand and sneered. “Has this place always been such a shit hole?”
Gil put his hands in his pockets. “Depends on who you ask.”
“I doubt that.”
Ott cleared his throat. “That's Ren. He has his qualities.”
Gil grunted. “I'm sure he does.” He leaned back to look Ott in the face. “How can I help you folks?”
“I need my car checked out.”
“Told you we couldn't leave the last town without water,” Ren said.
Gil grinned at Ren and looked back at Ott, who had a guilty look on his face.
“You didn't drive it far like that, did you?”
Ott indicated a little while Ren mumbled, “Stupid tallie.”
Gil pointed a thumb at Ren. “Is he always like this?”
Ott shrugged. “He can be worse.”
Gil looked around at the setting sun. “I can probably figure out your problem tonight, but you aren't going anywhere before morning.”
Ott nodded. “Where can we hole up for the night?”
“Barley is the owner of the inn.” Gil pointed at a three story house near the wall. Weak lights glowed in the bottom windows and through the open door. Half a dozen people sat on the dilapidated porch. “He has corn liquor, water, and food if you have gold dust. It's the town's hangout until the lights go out every night. He has a few cheap rooms. Sometimes you can trade labor for a night if you need to.”
“That'll depend on the price for repairs,” Ott said.
Gil shook his head. “I can't even guess until I look at it.”
“I told you to save your gold,” Ren said, and smacked Ott in the thigh. “We'll fucking starve and have to work again, soon.”
“You never know.” Gil put his hand on the hood of the sports coup and immediately pulled it away, rubbing at the fingerprints burned smooth. “Well, that's not good. Go hang out until I come find you.”
“Will do,” Ott said.
They went to the car, shattering the silence with the doors and slipping backpacks on.
Ren locked his door with a padlock through the ends of the chain and looked up at Gil. “It's not that we don't trust you, but we don't trust you.”
“Good enough, little buddy.” Gil nodded towards the gate. “I close and lock up when I'm done for the day and sentries watch the wall all night.”
“I bet they just sleep,” Ren said.
Ott went to the back and propped the hatchback open with a stick. “I almost forgot.”
The springs creaked as he pulled something heavy from the top of the armored fuel tank built into the storage area. He sat two tires down in front of Gil. One had half a dozen bullet holes around the dry rotted sidewall. The other had been worn down so that wires stuck out all around its circumference. The cracked rubber had blown out in the center.
“I need these patched.”
Gil looked at them and back up at Ott. “You need them what?”
“Uh, you need tires.”
“I'm the expert,” Gil said.
“If it's for the best.”
“I'll have to see if there's enough after the engine is done.”
Gil nodded. “I'll be down in a few. I have to hurry, or I can't tell you anything until morning.”
“Stupid, redheaded tallie.” Ren started towards the inn.
“Just double check and make sure you can't patch these,” Ott said.
Gil gave him a thumbs up.
“What kind of mechanic can't patch a tire?”
Ren grunted. “So says the person who can't do anything but split heads and drive.”
“Those things have at least half a dozen more patches left. He'll sell them to the next sucker that comes along.”
Ren shook his head. “I'll pay for the tires. You just drive and kill anyone who messes with us.”
“If you say so, but I don't like to buy stuff we don't need.”
They continued across the uneven ground, crossing the remains of an old street that no longer had a purpose except to serve as a parking lot for several rusty rat-rod cars and bikes. Two sentries climbed to the roof of the inn as they walked. The men disappeared against the black roof once they sat down and stopped moving.
Ren took a hand-held Geiger counter from one pocket. “We're lucky this place isn't radiated more than it is. We couldn't be this close to the coast north or south of here.”
“You worry too much.”
“And you don't worry enough. I'm telling you, your eyes are redder than a year ago.”
“Just your imagination.”
“Need to cut your diet. Too many toxins in the food supply to eat as much as you do.”
“It takes a lot to keep a body this big going.”
“Easy for you to―”
A howl came from the hill above them. It dragged on for several seconds before it faded out. A chorus answered that continued for almost a minute. The town folks in front of the inn didn't seem to notice.
Ren stopped. “Did that sound weird to you?”
“You bet. I know why they have a wall around this place, now.”
“No, you big dummy. That first howl.” Ren dropped his voice to a whisper. “It wasn't an animal.”
“Now, you're the dummy.” Ott started walking again. “Let's get something to eat. I'm hungry.”
Ren stared into the darkness for a few moments before he followed.
The people on the porch were a mix of men and women who looked rough from the harsh environment. Most of them muttered a greeting before they went back to their farming and scavenging conversation.
The front room of the house had been converted into a small dinning room with a few round tables. Several small, LED lights glowed from the ceiling. Wires ran from them to a battery against the wall. A man sat on a stool in one corner behind a table with a jug of clear liquor next to several chipped shot glasses. A large duffle bag full of MREs lay on the floor. Shelves on the corner stand bowed under the weight from hundreds of cans of food. Most without labels. Two crates full of random odds and ends sat on either side of the table. A stack of faded diet soda cartons reached halfway up the rack of food cans. Two guards with shotguns stood against the back wall. They nodded at Ott and Ren as they walked in.
The man on the stool behind the table stood up and held his hand out. He was an old, but solid looking, man with a receding hairline and gray beard that reached halfway down his chest. His clothing was faded and worn, but clean, and he had his shirt tucked in. A small balance scale sat in the middle of the table. His hand was strong and covered in callouses when Ott and Ren shook it.
“I'm Barley. This is my inn and tavern. Just let me know how I can help you.”
Ren immediately started picking through the crates of miscellaneous items, looking for anything worth hanging onto for future use.
Ott introduced himself and Ren and pointed at the MREs. “How much?”
“They're on sale. Uh, they're just slightly radioactive from where my supplier got them.”
“Give me five,” Ott said.
“Stop killing yourself, tallie,” Ren said. “I can't drive your car worth a damn.”
“Three and two cans.”
Ren smacked himself in the forehead. “Urgh.”
“We also need a room for a night or two,” Ott said.
Barley put the MREs on the table. “Do you want cans with labels? They're extra.”
Two bare cans joined the MREs. “Anything else?”
Ott pointed at the soda. “Two of those and two shots.”
Barley smiled. “I can let you have all that and one night stay for two grams.”
Ott nodded and untied his leather dust bag from his belt. He took a second to examine the scale as was encouraged by merchants to ensure fairness before he dropped the specified amount onto the tray.
Barley smiled and pulled the scale back to him. “Thank you very much, sir. You will have room three at the end of the hallway on the second floor. Checkout is noon.” He handed over a key on a piece of wire shaped like a '3'.
“No problem.” Ott pocketed the key, tossed down the shots of alcohol, and scooped up his dinner. He looked at the tables.
Two sat empty. The one in the right corner seated two women that talked and ate. Not the scavenging townsfolk types like in front, either. A wispy albino faced their direction. Her hair and skin were milky white and her clothing had been bleached out. She looked like a ghost. A ghost that noticed Ott looking and flicked her tongue, revealing it to be split down the middle. A piercing on each tip flashed in the light before she pulled it back in her mouth. Her companion, a brunette nearly as muscular as Ott with what looked like finger bones in her ears, turned and laughed.
Ott waited for Ren to pay for his stuff and nudged him with a knee. “Look, goth chicks.”
“You don't even know what that means.”
“It means that.”
“We have a day here. Two tops.”
“What else should we do?”
Ren glared at him. “Anything. Don't you get tired of being ran out of town with pitchforks?”
“Shotguns. It's normally shotguns we get ran off with.”
Ren groaned louder than needed. “I know.”
“I bet they own that SUV Gil is working on. We won't be ran off if we talk to women not from around here.”
“We did those two times.”
Ott nodded. “Oh, yeah.”
“Oh, yeah, dummy.”
“This time will be different.” Ott headed to the table.
Ott stopped and bowed at the women. “Me and my friend noticed you two all alone over here.”
The albino smiled and glanced at her friend. “We heard you, and we're not alone if we're sitting together.”
Ott paused, searching for the right word.
Ren stepped in after several seconds of silence. “Nevermind my friend, he eats too much radioactive food.”
The albino held out a hand to Ren. “I'm She.”
Ren shook the delicate hand. “She who?”
“Oh. I'm Ren.”
“I know. You were only a couple meters away.”
Ott and Ren looked back at Barley, who rolled his eyes.
“I'm Hope,” the brunette said. “We're outta this shit-hole soon as our truck is fixed.”
“I hear you,” Ren said, and pulled up a chair from the other table. “Have you ever seen a beach like that?”
Ott put his stuff on the table and pulled another chair over. Upon closer inspection, he could see that She's eyes were all white except for a spiral shaped, black iris that seemed larger than it should be. He tore into the first MRE and shoveled the food in with both hands. “Where are you two headed?”
She shrugged. “We got turned around heading to Denver and ended up here. Smashed the radiator when we ran from some bandits a few dozen kilometers east and nursed it here.”
“I'm not sure what's wrong with my car,” Ott said. “It started spitting smoke when I ran it a little low on water.”
Gil walked into the room and dropped the radiator cap from Ott's car on the table. Oil covered the inside of the cap. “How many kilometers did you drive that thing without water in it?”
Ott shrugged and indicated a little.
“You're lucky the engine isn't locked tight.”
Ott smiled weakly. “When can you have it fixed?”
“As soon as I get what I need.”
“When can you go?”
Ott swallowed the last of the second MRE and shoved the garbage inside one bag. “You mean us?”
“Yeah, you. It's your car.”
“You're the mechanic.”
Gil crossed his arms. “Exactly. Get me what I need and I'll fix it. I know where you have to go and everything. I pay people to do it once in a while.”
“How much does it pay?”
“Enough to fix your car.”
Ren broke in. “What and where?”
Gil looked at Ren. “The little one is the smart one, I shoulda known. Tubes of high temperature gasket compound. It's in a warehouse I know of on the island.”
“Sure.” Ott opened the last MRE. “Sounds simple.”
Ren sat back in his chair. “Sounds like there's a catch.”
Gil pointed at Ren. “You got it. Cannibals.”
Ren and Ott shrugged.
“Vancouver island was used for quarantine during the Ebola pandemic a century ago, and the virus became endemic there before anywhere else. The cannibal tribes that moved into the ruins after the flood used the virus as a terror weapon against others when they became infected and died. One of the tribes built a religion around the virus and attracted enough members to take over most the island a few years ago.”
Ren crossed his arms. “Where is this warehouse?”
“In the ruins.”
“Dammit,” Ott said. “I knew you were going to say that.”
Ren muttered, “I doubt that.”
“I haven't been able to get any gasket compound since they took over. The last I had got used up a few months back.”
Ott chuckled. “No one has the balls to go?”
Gil shrugged. “No one has come back in two years.”
Ren shook his head. “I don't do Ebola. No way.”
“The risk is overstated. There's simply not that many cannibals there. Plus, they don't eat meat all the time. They do farm. And the Ebola can't be too bad, or they'd all be dead by now.”
Ren squinted. “How many?”
“No more than one...maybe two...not more than 300, I'm sure.”
Ott laughed. “I have to pass. I like a good suicide mission, but that sounds like a real suicide mission.”
“Alright then,” Gil said. “Good luck with your car.”
“Do you mean there's no other options to fix that thing?” Ren pointed behind him with one thumb in the general direction of the car.
“No. You're lucky it can be fixed. Real lucky.”
Ren took a drink from his canteen. The leftover dog had dried out and turned his mouth into a desert. “What keeps this army of cannibals from coming over here?”
“We sink any boats that come from the island. The water does the real work, and anyone who makes it from the water is finished once they reach shore.”
Gil looked from Ott to Ren. “I don't know why the others didn't come back. I just know the warehouse is in an industrial area, and there's not a real reason for them to have an active presence there.”
Ott slid one of the mystery cans over and stabbed his hunting knife into the top. Everyone watched while he cut the first one open and then the second. The first was cream of mushroom soup congealed in a solid lump. The second turned out to be sardines in tomato sauce.
“Bummer,” She said, and wagged her forked, pierced tongue at Hope.
Ott shrugged. “Better than dog food.”
“Like your last couple mystery cans,” Ren said.
Gil yawned. “Get with me in the morning. I'll be up early to work on the SUV.”
Ott nodded, shoveling congealed soup into his mouth with his knife.
Hope nodded to She, and they stood.
“Unlike you two, we plan to be useful if Gil needs us tomorrow,” Hope said, pulling a backpack over her shoulder.
She's only pack seemed to be the multi-pocketed dress that flowed around her. Black boots and a red Ankh that hung from a rope belt were the only bits of color in her outfit.
Hope clapped Ren on the back and almost knocked him onto the floor. “We accept gold if you need help, little buddy.” Her and She laughed as they went up the stairs to their room.
“That could have gone better,” Ott said, picking up the can of sardines.
“I bet. Those things are nasty. Give me the key, I'm done for the night.”
“Really? You don't want to go hit up the local girls with me?”
Ren sighed. “Pitchforks.”
“You know what I fucking mean.”
They sat in silence while Ott finished the the can of sardines and his last drink.
One of Barley's guards stepped over to the table and pointed at Ott's garbage. “Can I take that? It all gets recycled for something.”
Ott shrugged, and the guard took it away.
Ren held out his hand. “Key.”
“I'm coming,” Ott said. “You're no fun.”
“Fun doesn't put gold in my pocket, bullets in my gun, or food in my stomach. A fixed car does.” Ren walked towards the stairs and motioned for him to follow.
Ott stood and groaned. “I ate too much.”
“No shit. You're going to start glowing any day. C'mon.”
The lights dimmed as they climbed the stairs.
Barley called out to his patrons, “About an hour left!”
They found their room easily enough and discovered that they had a decent view. The window in the east wall looked towards the gate and the garage so they could keep an eye on things. The rest of the town and fields could be seen through the south window. Both windows were cracked and dirty.
Ren pulled a short wedge from his pack and shoved it under the door. “Do you think we should hold watch?”
Ott kicked one of the straw beds over in front of the door. “I'll sleep here. No one can get in the windows without waking us up.”
Ren dropped his pack on another bed to use as a pillow and stretched before he laid down. “Good. I'm sick of sleeping with one eye open.”
Both were out within minutes after weeks of sleeping in the car. They didn't hear the flood of howls that sounded throughout most of the night.
Ren woke up with a shaft of light hitting him square in the eyes from the east window. He jumped up and ran over to look out. Few townsfolk were up and fog still hung on the hillside above the town. Early. Good. He watched Gil push open the gate for the day before he went to the SUV. She and Hope slowly walked towards the garage eating something. One or two locals were on the way to the fields before the day got too hot.
“Get up, tallie!”
Ott jerked awake and sat up. He had turned sideways on the straw bed. He rubbed his eyes for several seconds before he pulled his wild hair into a bun on top of his head, tying it in place with a short leather strap. “We're alive, still.”
“A shitter, I know,” Ren said. “But let's get this show on the road.” He slipped his pack on and rubbed red spots on his arm. “The bedbugs will drain us dry if we stay too long.”
Ott groaned and stood. “The bed sucks. Give me a minute.” He started a series of stretches to work out the kinks in his muscles. “I'm starting to think it's a bad idea to sleep in the car as much as we do.”
“I've told you that for months.”
“I've not listened for months.”
“Is the car still there?”
Ren nodded. “Oh, yeah, and Gil is up.”
Ott pulled his backpack on, kicked his bed away from the door, and pulled the wedge out. He opened the door and looked out. Nothing made a sound in the early morning.
Ren adjusted his pistol and followed the Ott down the stairs.
Ott stopped in the front room, now empty. A locked door was guarded by a man who said Barley would be up for business in an hour or so.
“I'm hungry,” Ott said while they walked out onto the front porch.
“Do you have any more of the dog?”
“Yeah, but it's four days old. I was going to toss the rest.”
Ott stopped and held out his hand. “I'll eat it.”
Ren paused, looking at him for a moment. “We can catch some rats for something fresh.”
“It'd take too long. No sense in wasting food.”
Ren pulled his backpack around and fished out a piece of four-day-old dog thigh wrapped in a piece of a tarp. The off smell he'd noticed the night before had gotten stronger, indicating the charred meat had turned.
Ott took it from him, smelled it, and ate as they walked to the garage.
The night hadn't got too cold, but the near 100% humidity ensured that any drop in temperature resulted in dew. The grass and bushes twinkled in the early, red sunlight that filtered through the poisonous clouds racing across the sky. The moisture would soon turn back into choking humidity that made the air hazy. Maybe there would be some rain, but there was an equal chance of the rain being as hot as the air, or evaporating before it reached the ground.
Ott finished the leftover dog and tossed the piece of tarp on the ground as they rounded the back corner of the garage. He burped and rubbed his stomach. “I need another shot of liquor to kill whatever grew on that.”
Gil was in the process of smoothing out the torn areas of the truck radiator with a pair of pliers while She and Hope watched. He pulled pieces out one at a time and straightened them best he could. He stopped and looked up when he noticed his other customers. “Have you decided to fix your car?”
Ott looked around. “Do I have a choice?”
Gil shook his head.
“Could you patch my tires?”
“I'm sorry, but they had to be put down.”
“Dammit.” Ott kicked the ground.
Gil pointed at two dry-rotted tires just inside the open garage door. “I'll throw them in if you bring back what I need.”
Ott looked around. “What is this stuff you need that's so important?”
Gil walked to a tool box with drawers and opened one. He rummaged around for almost a minute before he turned around with a flattened black tube in his hand. He held it up for Ott and Ren to see the label: High Temperature Silicone Gasket Compound.
“It'll take two tubes at least to fix your car, so I can't do anything with less than two. You need to bring me a whole case to cover all expenses and the tires.”
Ren reached for the flat tube, but Gil yanked it back from him.
“Just look,” Gil said. “I need this to show people who go to search.”
Ren frowned. “How do you know it's there?”
“I was there years ago. The water level was lower and not so much debris filled the channel between the island and here.” Gil turned the empty tube over in his hands. “You could still swim in the water without chemical burns.”
Gil pushed the smashed tube into his pocket and knelt in the dirt. He found a rusty nail and used it to draw in the hard packed surface. “We're here.” He put a hole in the dirt and drew two shorelines. He poked a hole on the opposite shore from the first. “This is where Nanaimo used to be, according to old maps I've run across. The situation was similar to here when I seen it last, so be prepared for that.” He made a circle to represent a mountain. “There's an industrial park halfway up the hill with a place in it called 'General Adhesives' that has a red and white sign, if it still stands. The building is whitewashed sheet metal if not. It's the only one in there that color. A huge section of the mountainside was cut away and flattened. Just go up until things level out. A highway makes a loop all the way up and back. There's a lot of old neighborhoods along the way. You should be careful of ambushes along the main road.” He stood and stepped back from the drawing.
Ren climbed to the top of the old flatbed and looked in the direction of the island. The tree covered hills were outlines in the hazy air, even though the sun shone directly on them. “That's 50 or 60 kilometers of poisoned ocean to cross. How are we supposed to do that?”
“Ah.” Gil dragged a battered, aluminum jonboat from under the flatbed. A line of bullet holes crossed the bow and several had been patched on the sides and bottom. A thick accumulation of spider webs quivered when their inhabitants were disturbed. Several mouse skeletons rattled against the metal. Gil turned the boat over and thumped it against the ground to get rid of its residents.
Ren looked at the boat for a moment. “This is some serious bullshit.”
Gil smiled. “That's what everyone says.”
Ren and at the water. “I don't doubt that.”
Gil went into the open garage and searched through a shelf that overflowed with random car parts and other items until he pulled an electric trolling motor, battery, and solar panel from the mess. He put the motor across the boat seats and sat the panel so it faced the rising sun, wiping it with his shirt tail. He twisted the wires together to connect the panel to the motor.
Ren shook his head at the dust covered motor and solar cell. “When's the last time you used that?”
Gil turned the switch and the motor buzzed to life. “First time.” He went over the panel with his shirt again. The motor changed speed as the power varied.
Ott bent over to look at the motor. “You don't have anything with more...torque?”
Gil pulled two wooden paddles from the garage wall and sat them in the boat. “Anything else?”
Ott glared at them and then at Gil. “A gas motor, maybe?”
“All the motorboats got gone with the failed tries. This boat washed ashore a few months ago, and the motor and panel have kicked around for years. No sense in fishing since nothing seems to live in the water anymore.”
“Uh, no,” Ott said.
“Well, good luck.”
Ren jumped down from the flatbed and walked over next to Ott. “And I thought it'd be a shitty job. Glad I'm not disappointed.” He snapped his fingers. “Grab the boat and follow me. Time's awasting.” He walked towards the gate without looking back.
Ott bowed to She and Hope. “I'll be back soon, ladies.” He grabbed the rope tied to the front of the boat and dragged it behind him as he trotted to catch up to Ren.
“Don't go swimming!” Hope shouted after them.